Teaching Overview

I have taught at a range of British art schools: Central St. Martin's, Royal College of Art, Ruskin College (Oxford) and Wimbledon. For 14 years I taught at Goldsmiths' College (University of London) where I coordinated the Visual Art Extension Degree Program. In SIngapore, I have taught the following subjects at undergraduate level: Digital Painting, Painting, Drawing, Compositing, Art and Science (all links to ADM school course descriptions). At postgraduate level I teach Aesthetics.


Teaching Philosophy
       Many aspects of teaching art are similar to teaching any other subject. For example, key topic-related content needs to be delivered to the student in a lucid and effective manner. However, there are also some aspects of teaching art that require a specialized approach. A young artist’s value in the art-world is heavily dependent upon the uniqueness of their creative identity. Such a quality is not easy to teach. Additionally, art is sensitive to the cultural context in which it is made: hence an art teacher is required to be aware of the particular cultural influences which have shaped their students lives.

       In all my courses, students are required to absorb a substantial amount of technical content. I deliver this with particular attention to the principles that lay behind the technologies. By doing so I ensure that what the students learn is portable and can be therefore applied to a wide variety of circumstances.

       In the delivery of my course content I aspire to be well-prepared and organized. This requires that a lesson plan has been written in which student learning goals are explicitly stated. Clarity is very important and I try to find the most concise manner in which to deliver course content. Learning aids such as annotated sample files, diagrams and suchlike all serve this purpose.

       Complimenting technical instruction is the development in the art student of a unique creative identity. As each student requires that this be addressed in a manner that is responsive to their own particular needs, it is not easy an easy thing to formulate. My approach is student-centric: to take a mentoring role, but to let the student establish the directional lead. This takes something of a forensic form: an enquiry based upon evidence as opposed to the student’s declared aims. Specifically, my approach is to look for traces of uniqueness in the full scope of the student’s activities that they might develop into a more fulsome enquiry. Importantly, this requires that I am familiar with the scope of cultural influences that impact upon their lives. In Singapore these are particularly broad and cosmopolitan, including such things as ‘J-pop’ music, Korean soap opera and Hollywood movies. This requires that I constantly update my knowledge of such matters.

       In whatever course I teach, even those relating to very young subjects such as digital compositing, I deliver both the history of the subject and its current state of the art. Together they serve to develop in the student a place for themselves in the current art world. I attempt to directly relate these to problems that the students are likely to encounter.

       I also endeavour to develop in the student an ability to think clearly and critically. This is a very portable and high-level skill that the student can take into any future career. It requires that I encourage in them a precise use of language, careful thinking and a working knowledge of discourse related skills.

       The preceding paragraphs outlines three components of teaching art: the delivery of content, the development of creative identity and the encouragement of critical thinking. In the manner in which I structure my courses, I separate these components: delivering predominantly content in the first half of the course and the remaining two components in the second half of the course. Such separation has been standard practice in art education since the modern art school was invented*. However, there is also substantial connect and overlap between content, creative identity and critical thinking that is found in the ‘shop floor’ reality of teaching in the classroom. Here the teacher is required to be reactive and quick-thinking and to give to each situation the particular attention that it requires.

       It is important to any teaching that the assessment of a students is fair and consistent. Firstly, the technical accomplishment of the student is reviewed. This is located not only in the ‘document’ of the work (e.g. correct layer order in a Photoshop file) but also in the formal content of the work (e.g. convincing composition, form, anatomy etc). Secondly the originality of the work is reviewed. Has the student relied too much on referencing established genres like animeĢ, manga, etc. Finally, the critical faculties of the student are assessed. Has the student sought consultation? Have they been critically supportive of other students? All of these attributes are reviewed with reference to stated course criteria (i.e. criteria based grading) and also with reference to inter-student comparison (i.e. normative based grading). My need in maintaining fairness in grading was a motivating factor in one of my research projects.

       I believe that a course is subject to multiple and ongoing influences that impact upon its form. In the past, formal and informal student feedback has made me aware of shortcomings in my course content. Also, my own ideas of the what purpose the course serves and what form it takes are subject to ongoing development. In response to all these influences I regularly revise my teaching material.

* Efland, Arthur. A History of Art Education. Teachers College Press, 1990.